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Cheat net closes in on the copy-and-paste academic; University computers to check essays for plagiarism.

Byline: ADRIAN BUTLER

FOR THOSE students who saw essays as a quick break between Richard and Judy and a trip to the bar, it seemed like a golden era.

A treasure trove of material on line and fewer written exams meant passing off other people's work as your own had never seemed easier.

But now, thanks to powerful new software being piloted at Liverpool University, the days of plagiarising essays could soon be over.

Students there are now em ailing all assignments to the JISC Plagiarism Advisory Service to be screened.

JISC then compares the essays to those from other students in its worldwide database containing published material on the subject and everything on the internet.

It then forwards the work to the tutors with an ``originality report'', estimating how much they have copied, and where they have copied from.

Liverpool University is keen to point out that it does not have a major problem with plagiarism, but says the prog ram could eventually be used in all academic institutions.

Liverpool University Administration and Support Director Gary Walker said: ``We started piloting the system this year. We're not doing it for all pieces of work. A mathematics exercise is very different to an essay on Hamlet, for example. We've asked the departments to use it this year and report back to us in the summer.

``This year the students have to submit all essays electronically. Each department has a member of staff who is familiar with the software. We have a central computer manager who liaises with JISC, which is based elsewhere in the north of England. ''

Under university rules, students who are caught plagiarising work get a mark of zero for that essay. If they continue to cheat, they can be awarded a lower degree or thrown out.

Mr Walker said: ``Lecturers are becoming more careful in setting assignments which force students to do original work.

``In the seven years I have been working here, we have had several cases of plagiarism. But I can only think of four cases where a student's degree has been affected as a result of it.

``In one instance, we awarded someone a diploma instead of a masters degree after we caught them cheating. ''

The programme's overall manager Fiona Duggan added: ``The system can also be used by students to see how original their work is before they hand it in. They can catch things before the essay gets marked. '' GISC's trial comes as academic research at another university revealed more than half of academics admit to ignoring suspected cheating by their students.

The paper, based on 500 staff and students at Hertfordshire University, said: ``Faced with large numbers of staff not being able to correctly identify incidents of collusion, it is not surprising that students do not consider collusion to be a serious offence. ''

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New software being piloted at Liverpool University spells the end of plagiarised essays
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 18, 2005
Words:487
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